One Year

A year ago…

…and now:

Peekaboo on the National Mall

Getting to know this kid has been amazing. From a little lump that just slept, ate, and cried, to a walking, babbling, happy little girl who loves bubbles, swings, the dog, books, and any physical comedy whatsoever. It’s been an incredible year.

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Birthday flannel board

A little over a year ago, I was watching one of my library co-workers lead a storytime for 3- to 5-year-olds, and she used a flannel board for the kids to help illustrate a song; each kid had the chance to add a piece to the board. (“Flannel board” is a misnomer; it is actually felt, not flannel. The felt pieces stick to the felt on the board, no adhesive necessary!)

I remembered her flannel board a few weeks ago when I was thinking of birthday presents for my almost-one-year-old(!). I read a few blog posts (Storytime Katie has a whole collection of flannel boards, and Mel’s Desk had some ideas too). I also remembered an amazing flannel board a former co-worker had made around Emily Gravett’s book Orange Pear Apple Bear, one of my favorite board books.

Making a flannel board seemed doable, and more personal and unique than buying a toy or piece of clothing. I set about collecting supplies: some felt from my local fabric store (Fabric Corner in Arlington), and a bulletin board from the Five and Ten. I cut a piece of gray felt to cover the hard back side of the bulletin board, and stapled the extra to the cork side.

I used construction paper, a pencil, and scissors to make templates for a few simple shapes – ducks, fish, and trains – and got advice from yet another co-worker on how best to make a Very Hungry Caterpillar. (Having children’s librarians as co-workers is the best.) Altogether, minus the time to acquire the materials, it only took about two hours, though I still need to glue the train wheels and windows to the train cars, and glue all the caterpillar segments together.


Trains, fish, and ducks

Felt version of Very Hungry Caterpillar

The Very Hungry Caterpillar (from the Eric Carle book)

I’m planning to make a Very Full Caterpillar as well, and a turtle, and some strawberries; I may use puff paint to do faces on the animals (googly eyes are a choking hazard for the little one, who still likes to put things in her mouth). The neat thing about a flannel board is that I can continue to add to it throughout the year and beyond, so (hopefully!) it will remain interesting. Have ideas for flannel board pieces? Send ’em my way! One week to go till the big day…

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What we’ve read so far, eleven months

She’s turning pages, sometimes even examining and pointing at certain elements on pages (particularly with the Sesame Street books)…but still occasionally tasting as well (see poor Little Ladybug below).

Stack of board books with Little Ladybug on top

The Watertown Free Public Library has a great collection of board books and a really fun kids’ play area. We visited the main branch of the Cambridge Public Library for the first time last week too; it wasn’t quite as fun as Watertown but it does have a playground outside, where we enjoyed the baby swings. We checked out the (bilingual!) BabyLit Don Quixote from Cambridge.

Stack of picture books

  • My Dog is the Best is illustrated by Paul Schmid, of Oliver and His Alligator fame; he’s one of our favorite illustrators and the little boy’s sleepy dog is not dissimilar to our own. Speaking of dogs, things are going pretty well on the dog/baby front: the baby has learned to pet “gently” and isn’t going for the dog’s eyes, ears, tail, or toes the way she used to.
  • Wednesday was recommended to us by a co-worker. It is the perfect book for anyone who loves Tangrams and friendship, and it’s one of the least odd picture books translated from the French. (Most of them are pretty strange.)
  • School’s First Day of School is fabulous; for all those “first day of school” books out there, I’m not sure there’s ever been one from the school’s point of view…but now there is, and it’s brilliant. The school is nervous about the first day, and indeed, the kids get everywhere! But despite a few bumps, the school decides it would like to invite the kids back for another day.
  • Max the Brave is about a kitten named Max who is brave and chases mice – or he would chase mice, if he knew what one looked like. There’s a bit of Gruffalo-style misdirection and it’s just the right blend of mischief and cuteness. In Max at Night, it’s past Max’s bedtime, but Max wants to say goodnight to everyone before going to sleep. This turns into a longer adventure when Moon is nowhere to be found.
Baby outside, wearing sweater and future librarian onesie

Future librarian? We’re not pushing any one career path, but she wears the onesie (and sweater!) well…


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Adventures in sewing

Learning to sew has been on my bucket list for years, but it never made its way to the top of the list. Reading Overdressed is what finally prompted me to launch in (or at least dip a toe in the water, depending on how bold I’m feeling that day). What with all the free time I have, between working and taking care of a 10.5-month-old, now seems like the perfect time to start!

0308161442My hand-sewing skills are hazily remembered from third grade (thanks, Montessori school!) and are appropriate for dog toy repair and uneven baby toys (like this thing). However, my mom now lives nearby, and she is in possession of her mother’s sewing machine, complete with instruction manual. (The last thing I made on a machine: an attempt to turn a hoodie into a zip-up sweatshirt in college. The thing before that: my fifth-grade Halloween costume, a green M&M. That was the sum total of my sewing machine experience until a few weeks ago.)

My first project was the simplest possible: I sewed a rectangle. I had gotten a cotton print in the same pattern as the endpapers of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and wanted to hang it in front of our kitchen cart, to keep dust and dog hair off our larger pots and kitchen equipment (and also to make that area look less cluttered). I measured the space, added a little extra (a “seam allowance”? Is that what that is?), cut, pinned, ironed, and sewed. The first side is not at all straight, but I did not stray off the fabric entirely, and the subsequent sides are better, so I counted it a success.

Next, I made the dog a new winter collar; it’s reversible, brown on one side and gray on the other. For this, I measured, cut, then laid the two pieces of fabric right side to right side and sewed up one long side, across one short side, and up the other long side; then I flipped it inside out and sewed the final short side. I hand-sewed the short ends together to make a circle because I thought four layers of fleece might be too thick for the machine.

At the library, I found a book called Sewing in a Straight Line, which has a great section in the front about sewing basics, and has lots of simple projects; the first one I’m going to try is the “One-Hour Skirt” (yeah right. Maybe the sewing itself can be done in an hour, but there’s also the measuring, cutting, pinning, ironing…). The fabric the author uses for this skirt is a cotton/linen blend, but I chose a knit because I like knit skirts. (Yes, I know they’re harder to work with because of the stretch, but this pattern seems pretty forgiving. I hope. And the knit I chose isn’t super-stretchy.)

Indigo alert tag on indigo fabricI’m also hoping to duplicate a shirt I already own and have nearly worn to pieces over the past few summers; it’s so airy in fabric and cut that I wear it on the hottest days. It was secondhand to begin with, though, so I’m afraid it won’t last another summer. Fortunately, it looks easy enough to make (famous last words, right?), just one piece in front and two in back. I got an indigo cotton print to make that.

Curtains are also on deck, thanks to some fabric from a co-worker; there’s enough of a blue-ish upholstery-type fabric to make a pair of curtains for our dining room, which will give me more practice and confidence sewing in a straight line, and will also look nicer than the plain shades on the windows now.

And of course, baby clothes! On one hand, she’ll grow out of them and I’ll probably be too attached to them to pass them on; on the other hand, she won’t notice or care if the seams are a little crooked, so it’s good practice. The same co-worker who was getting rid of the upholstery/curtain fabric gave me a whole pile of fabric odds and ends, including an adorable blue and white check with cherries that is just begging to be a smock or apron; and I found a yellow and white pin dot cotton and a bright orange with white moons and stars that would go together perfectly to make this crossover pinafore.

Do you sew? If so*, what’s your advice for beginners? Do you have any favorite sources for patterns – blogs, magazines, books? Let me know!

*See what I didn’t do there? It would have been so easy to say “if sew…” So I hope you’re happy, CAITLIN.



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What we’ve read so far, 10 months 10 days

She’s turning pages and pointing (more like stabbing/jabbing), and still occasionally tasting, especially those delicious touch-and-feel elements like fur and feathers. She has definite favorites that she wants to read over and over again: BabyLit versions of Jabberwocky and The Secret Garden, Pat the Zoo, That’s Not My…, Rhymoceros, Shh! We Have A Plan!, Are You A Cow?, and Wow! Said the Owl.

Baby turning pages of Wow Said the Owl

Turning the pages of Wow! Said the Owl by Tim Hopgood

She will also pull several books off the shelves and use them to stand on to reach more books on higher shelves. We’re working on teaching her to read one book at a time and not pull down all the books at once (as much as her librarian mama loves re-shelving…). Do they make climbing harnesses and belay ropes for babies? Or should we just get her a helmet…


Punk Farm, Boy + Bot, The Adventures of Beekle, Wolfie the Bunny, Horrible Bear!, Edgar Gets Ready for Bed

Stack of board books

Little Ladybug Finger Puppet Book, Baby Beluga, a stack of Sandra Boynton books, and I Am the Wolf…And Here I Come!

Funny story: my mom was reading one of the Boynton books – I think it was But Not the Hippopotamus – and remarked, “These illustrations aren’t very good.” Not realizing she was speaking about the board book queen! (Really though…all the animals do look rather lumpishly alike.)

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Ten Months: motion, direction, acceleration

I’ve got speed
That’s how fast I am moving
I’ve got velocity
That’s my speed and direction…
Motion, direction, acceleration…
They Might Be Giants, “Speed and Velocity,” Here Comes Science

She’s ten months old today! Two babies in our local friend group have their first birthdays today and tomorrow; I can’t believe it’s been nearly a year. She’s crawling, “cruising,” and has taken a first step. She eats real people food (she is going to loooooove birthday cake…she might’ve inherited her mama’s sweet tooth) and makes all kinds of sounds. She stands and claps her hands, and every now and then, if the mood strikes, she’ll blow raspberries on us.

Here are some photos from the last few months.

Mama and baby reading board book on couch

A rare snuggly moment in Maine. She’s always on the go, but will pause for a favorite book.


Baby in hat reading a book on a blanket

At book club in June. (The rest of us read Jo Walton’s excellent My Real Children.)

Dad holding baby up, sun shining down through tree above

A little air-drying after splashing around in the kiddie pool on a hot summer day.

Baby in plaid hat in bucket swing

Enjoying the swings at Menotomy Rocks Park. Photo by Abby T.

Baby eating watermelon on the floor

Visiting a friend for indoor picnic lunch at her office.

Baby browsing picture books on library shelves

Browsing the picture books at the Belmont Public Library.

In the water at Walden Pond

Visiting Walden Pond with friends. Photo by Mae K.


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What we’ve read so far, nine and a half months

What we’ve read so far, nine months


If she paid attention even a quarter of the time, Sudo would be able to get a degree in children’s literature.



The top half of the stack. Go Dog Go! for irony.

I Am the Wolf…and Here I Come! and Jabberwocky and Shh! We Have a Plan are books the baby now recognizes and gets excited about. She likes I Kissed the Baby! too, especially the “I tickled the baby” page. And she enjoys my attempts at sound effects for Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? as well as The Loud Book (see below). From the Baby Signs book, we’ve learned that the ASL for “dog” makes her giggle every time (it’s sticking out your tongue and panting).


The bottom half of the stack

The Quiet Book and The Loud Book were recommended by our friend Caitlin S., and they are brilliant – all about different kinds of quiet (e.g. “Thinking of a good reason you were drawing on the wall quiet” and “Last one to get picked up from school quiet”) and loud (“Burp during quiet time loud,” “Spilling your marbles in the library loud.” Naturally I like The Quiet Book and Lyra loves The Loud Book.

Julia’s House for Lost Creatures reminds me a bit of Neil Gaiman, absent Gaiman’s usual darkness; it was a gift from a friend, chosen with the help of the staff at the Brookline Booksmith (thank you!).

I have yet to memorize One Woolly Wombat completely, but the day is coming. Monkey and Me, on the other hand, is easy to memorize, has a lovely singsong rhythm, and serves well as a distraction in the car. As always, Emily Gravett’s illustrations are perfect.

There is a new Goose book! Goose Goes to the Zoo. It’s just about as charming as Goose and Goose Goes to School.

A few of these are really too long for a baby’s attention span; the board books are just right, plus she’s able to turn the pages (and chew on them without completely ruining them). But it’s nice for us to read some of the longer ones, both so that she hears the language even if she’s busy doing something else (like trying to climb the bookshelf) and to preview for ourselves, so we have an idea of which ones we will enjoy reading on repeat and which ones will have mysteriously short lending periods from the library.

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